Denver Broncos Defensive Coordinator Ejiro Evero interviewed for the Houston Texans head coaching position. Deepi Sidhu spoke with Broncos team reporter Phil Milani about Evero as a head coaching candidate.
DS: One of the candidates being interviewed for the Texans is the Broncos Defensive Coordinator Ejiro Evero, who received a lot of praise for how the Denver Broncos defense performed this year. The Broncos, we talked about them being in the midst of a head coaching search, how much of a candidate and what's the interest like for Evero there in Denver?
PM: He interviewed with the Broncos earlier this week. I think that they really liked what he was able to bring to the table, especially on the defensive side. I mean, as much as this Broncos team struggled this year, the defense was really good, top five in a lot of categories across the NFL. And I think more than that, he got career years out of a lot of players. Justin Simmons had six interceptions, was tied for the lead in the league. The inside linebackers Josey Jewell, Alex Singleton both had career years here. CB Pat Surtain II is heading to the Pro Bowl. So he got the most out of these guys and I think that made him an interesting candidate here. I do think, for the Broncos, previous head coaching experience is something that they're really emphasizing this time around but he left enough of an impression that he got an interview with these guys, even though they were valuing previous experience.
DS: As a first year defensive coordinator, what did Ejiro do so well to get that sort of elite play from the Broncos defense? When the team was losing week after week, to have the defense play at the level that they did, how was he able to do that and get the most out of these players?
PM: He really just had a strong connection with these guys right off of the bat. His temperament and the way that, even with the media, just really respectful, calm kind of guy. And I think sometimes when there's a lot of chaos going on, on the field and on game days, it's a little bit crazy, just to have that levelheaded, calm demeanor goes a long way. And he really just thrived in this role, which was brand new for him. I mean, he had never called defensive plays in a game and he seemed to just press all the right buttons with this defense. And it helped that he came from the Vic Fangio Tree of Defense, which for this Broncos team, they already had a lot of familiarity with Vic Fangio being the head coach here the three years prior to this. So they were familiar with it and then he tweaked a couple of things and put players in more comfortable positions. I know a guy like Josey Jewell, the linebacker, they just made some small tweaks to what his responsibilities were and he was really able to thrive. So he pressed all the right buttons and really right off the bat you could tell like there's something about this guy where he feels like he's head coaching material.
DS: What is his defensive scheme like? Can you give us sort of an idea of what it's like or his philosophy? How much did he change his defense based on the opponents, or did he just sort of have the bread-and-butter of his defense that you saw week after week?
PM: I would say bread and butter type of thing. I mean, it's about getting after passers with the pass rush and then the Broncos have a lot of talent in their secondary. So, I mean, it helps when you have a guy like Pat Surtain, which can just shut down one side of the field. He didn't have Surtain really roam with the opposing team's best wide receiver, more just on one side of the field. He just sort of ran that type of defense that has become so popular in the league now it seems like that McVay, Shanahan style on the offensive side and then that Fangio style on the defensive side has become so popular and he just had a lot of success with it. I don't think there was too much mixing up from a week to week sort of thing. He did like to bring pressure and he designed some different kind of blitz schemes but nothing too crazy. It was a lot of the same type of stuff week after week, and he just got a lot out of these guys, even going up against some of the premier offenses in this league. I mean, you face Pat Mahomes twice a year, Justin Herbert twice a year, and he had a lot of success against them.
DS: He doesn't have any head coaching experience, but what sort of qualities of Evero do you think would make him a good head coaching candidate for another team?
PM: Like just even when he meets with the media, like every week as a defensive coordinator, he'd meet with the press. The way he would answer questions would make you think like, okay, this guy's not getting baited into any questions. He's not falling for some of those usual traps that maybe a guy who's unfamiliar with how to deal with the press would. And then the way that you hear guys talk about him in the locker room, like after the season ended and all the players are doing their locker room clear outs, everybody was stumping for him, really. They were like, 'We want him back as the defensive coordinator. We are blown away with how he just handled meetings.' I think that he was able to connect with the players really strongly and you could just tell that he was always like very sharp. Even the first time I met him, just like walking down the hallway here, he'd be like, 'Oh hey Phil, what's going on?' That's unusual for a new coordinator to come in and know everybody in the building, know how things are going to be run. You could just tell his demeanor was different than maybe other coordinators that had been here in the past. You could just tell that right away he's going to be on a fast track to becoming a head coach. And if it doesn't happen this time around, I'm pretty confident that in the next year or two he is going to be a head coach in this league.
DS: Any particular moments that really stood out to you over the course of the year?
PM: Well, what was interesting was he came in and it was known right off the bat that he was Nathaniel Hackett's best friend. They were in each other's weddings and they were really close. This season for the Broncos, when things weren't going well, it was sort of like the defense had been playing really well and the offense was struggling, but you never saw any fighting across those groups in the locker room. At least nothing was ever made public and I think that goes a long way to just talking about Evero's sort of command over these guys and what he was preaching in there is like, 'Let's just do our job. Don't worry about other things and let's just try and go out and be one of the best defenses in the NFL.' The players echoed that all year long, like his message was getting through to them. They were continuing that when they met with the media.
The other thing that really stood out was when the Broncos parted ways with Hackett this year, Evero was offered the interim head coaching job and he turned it down, which was a little bit of an unusual move, especially if you want to be a head coach. You would think that sort of experience, even on an interim level, would be beneficial to just add to your resume. He said no, he didn't feel like that would be right to Hackett. An interesting position to be in if you're Evero. But he valued his relationship with Hackett and was like, I don't want to do that to him. Even though a lot of people would perceive that as a benefit to his resume. So that was definitely an interesting moment, which tells you a little bit about his character and some of his values that his relationship with Hackett he valued more than getting the chance to be an interim head coach. So just a great guy. I think everybody who he came into contact with him this season was blown away by his demeanor and certainly the way the Broncos defense performed out on the field let you know about his X's and O's. So when you combine the success the Broncos defense had and then his demeanor, I think those two things paired together will make a good head coach at some point.